by Nina Joubert
The vacant seats around Everlytic’s office during a manager’s meeting are sometimes the only indicators of who’s boss around here. In a company culture where no one holds back their opinion, no matter their “position”, you have to be the kind of boss that can both take criticism and give it.
Walter Penfold has been the Managing Director of Prefix Technologies (Everlytic’s holding company) for 3 years now. When he arrived, Everlytic was a team of 15 and has since grown to 60 employees.
Establishing and maintaining such an entrepreneurial and energy driven team is not as easy as it looks, but when Penfold is not teeing off on the golf course, starting up the engine of his Yamaha YZ450 or hanging out with his kids, he’s doing just that.
In an interview with him, we discuss his experiences and ambitions and how he harvests and manages a diverse team like that of Everlytic’s.
NJ: What is your role at Everlytic?
WP: I do everything no one else wants to do. I guess my role is to help define and roll out Everlytic’s strategy through all the different departments like sales, marketing and finance. In a nut shell, I make all the departments that deal with the business side of Everlytic work together.
NJ: What do you want to be when you grow up?
WP: An astronaut. I’d like to be the first African on the moon since Shuttleworth beat me to space. I can’t claim that one.
NJ: What have you done workwise, other than be the Managing Director at Everlytic?
WP: I was a developer for 10 years in the 90’s. I started before we had PCs, so I had the green screen dumb terminal linked to a main frame. I used to code from there. I only got my first PC 3 years into working. Later, I spent 2 years defining and implementing the start-up strategy for Pick ‘n Pay Go Banking which was a joint venture with Nedbank. In 2003, I started my first business, Wetec. It was started off the back of an award I won from Standard Bank for Best Business Plan in the Entrepreneurship Elective at Wits Business School. They gave me a whole whopping R1, 500 capital to start my business, so I sold my house and took every cent I had and implemented that plan, establishing Wetec. Later, I had a short stint at Endeavor, helping them with entrepreneur support and then joined Prefix Technologies.
NJ: How did you come to be the MD at Everlytic? And why did you choose Everlytic?
WP: Josh, the other Co-Founder and CEO of Prefix at the time, was in the process of leaving. Josh did all the business stuff, so Sam (Co-Founder of Prefix Technologies) needed someone to help fill Josh’s role and partner with him. I was employed as MD.
The reason I chose to work at Everlytic is because it was one of the most innovative businesses that I knew of. I loved the culture and the people and I saw an opportunity to take it global.
NJ: What are your dreams for Everlytic?
WP: To take over the world! To be the best digital communications platform on the planet and to be the brand leader in emerging markets.
NJ: What is the culture like at Everlytic?
WP: We have a very entrepreneurial culture and have a strong set of values that we operate with. Generally, people are given a lot of freedom, but trusted to produce excellent work. People love what they do and we encourage people to do what they love. We operate with respect, integrity, transparency and generally we like to be happy, it’s a value of ours.
NJ: I’ve heard it said that Everlytic’s culture strives to be non-hierarchal. How do you get that right in a growing company?
WP: You have to empower people to make their own decisions. You have to allow people to make mistakes and create an environment of accountability.
NJ: Can you give us some tips on managing a diverse company?
WP: Diversity is very strongly related to innovation. We have people from 11 countries, speaking 24 different languages at Everlytic. This kind of diversity creates a whole melting pot of views, frames of reference and knowledge. This is where our values come into play. You have to manage diversity with respect, integrity and transparency and you have to make sure that everyone allows other cultures to be who they are and who they want to be, yet always respectful of one another.
NJ: As MD of Everlytic how do you plan to take over the world?
WP: We will continually innovate to stay ahead of our competition, build the best products and provide the best service in the world.